Super Rugby Logo introduced for 2011
|Instituted||1996 (as Super 12)|
|Number of teams||18|
|Country||Argentina (1 team)
Australia (5 teams)
Japan (1 team)
New Zealand (5 teams)
South Africa (6 teams)
|Holders||Highlanders (NZ) (2015: 1st title)|
|Most titles||Crusaders (7 titles) (NZ)|
www.SuperSport.com (South Africa)
Super Rugby (rendered in the current competition logo as "SupeRugby", also colloquially referred to as "Super 15") is the pre-eminent professional men's rugby union football competition in the Southern Hemisphere. Building off various Southern Hemisphere competitions dating back to the South Pacific Championship in 1986, with teams from a number of southern nations, Super Rugby officially started with the 1996 season with 12 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The competition was known as Super 12 through to the end of the 2005 season; the name was changed to Super 14 with the addition of two teams for the 2006 season; with expansion to 15 teams in the three countries for the 2011 season, the competition was rebranded as Super Rugby (no number included). By 2006, matches were being broadcast in 41 countries.
- 1 Format and sponsorship
- 2 History
- 3 Current franchises
- 4 Champions
- 5 Salary cap
- 6 Trophies
- 7 Competition records
- 8 Domestic competitions
- 9 Media
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 External links
Format and sponsorship
SANZAR is the body that administers Super Rugby, and has the Australian, New Zealand and South African rugby unions as its sole members. SANZAR also runs the Rugby Championship tournament that is contested by Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa following the conclusion of the Super Rugby tournament; the Tri-Nations preceded the Rugby Championship before Argentina joined the competition. The organisation was formed in 1995 to establish and run the Super 12, and Tri-Nations Tournament.
Prior to 2011, Super Rugby was a round-robin competition where each team played with every other team once; a team had six or seven home games, and six or seven away games each. The winner received four competition points; if the game was a draw two points were awarded to each team. The Rugby union bonus points system was also used, where any team scoring four or more tries, and/or losing by seven points or less, receives an extra competition point. The top four teams at the end of the round-robin phase then played semi-finals – the first placed team hosting the fourth placed team, and the second placed team hosting the third placed team. The two winners then played the final at the home ground of the top surviving seed. There were 91 regular season games in total. Games were held over 14 weekends with each team receiving one bye.
From 2011 the format changed, with each country forming its own conference. Each team within a conference plays each of the other teams in its conference twice, once at home and once away. Each team then plays four out of the five teams from each of the other conferences once. Competition points are awarded on a similar basis as before. The format of the finals also changed; it now involves six teams: the top team in each of the three conferences plus the three next teams with the highest total number of points, regardless of conference. The four lower ranking teams are paired in two sudden death games; the winners of those two games each play one of the two top ranked teams (which received a bye at the start of the finals). Those winners play for the championship.
During the last season of the Super 12, Coast Design of Sydney was commissioned to design a new logo for the Super 14. The Super 14 logo broke away from the traditional shield formats, common to many sporting codes, and used Roman numerals (XIV), which is unique for sport in the region. The game's dynamism and speed are suggested by the orbiting football which has three distinct stitches, a subtle reference to the three countries of the tournament.
The Super Rugby logo dispenses with numbers, featuring a large blue "S" with a white rugby ball in the centre and "SupeRugbY" below the "S". The three stitches of the previous ball are retained.
Before the expansion to the Super 14, the Super 12 used a logo in the shape of a shield, which had the sponsors name at the top, and then the words "Rugby" and "Super 12". The lower half of the logo used three different coloured stripes, green, black and gold, the respective colours of the national teams of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
The naming rights for the competition are different in the three countries:
- In New Zealand, Investec Bank has naming rights starting with the 2011 season, and the competition is referred to as Investec Super Rugby. During the Super 14 era, sporting goods retailer Rebel Sport had naming rights and the Super 14 competition was referred to as the Rebel Sport Super 14. Previously Ubix and then Telecom New Zealand (TNZ). Telecom used its ISP brand Xtra as the label in their last year of holding naming rights.
- In Australia, Asteron Life, a life insurance company that is part of the Suncorp Group, was announced at the 2014 Australian Super Rugby launch as the new naming rights sponsor for 3 years. As a result, the competition will be officially referred to as Asteron Life Super Rugby. Prior to this, Super Rugby in Australia was without a naming rights partner in 2013 as global forex broker FxPro, who purchased the naming rights for four years starting from the 2012 season, seemingly terminated this deal after just 1 year due to FxPro's withdrawal from the Australian market. In the first season of Super Rugby, Australia had no naming rights partner. Previous to that, Investec acquired naming rights in the middle of the Super 14 era from Lion Nathan, who had named the competition the Tooheys New Super 14, after its Tooheys New beer brand. Vodafone has also held naming rights in Australia.
- In South Africa, telecommunications carrier Vodacom has naming rights, and the expanded competition is referred to as Vodacom Super Rugby.
Pre SANZAR: Super 6 and Super 10
Before 1996, a number of transnational competitions involving regional and provincial rugby union teams had taken shape in the southern hemisphere. The earliest of these was the South Pacific Championship, which was launched in 1986 and continued until 1990.
After the demise of the South Pacific Championship, with no tournament played in 1991, the competition was relaunched as the Super 6 in 1992. The original Super 6 competition consisted of three provincial teams from New Zealand; Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, along with two Australian state teams; Queensland and New South Wales, and also Fiji.
In 1993, the Super Six competition was revamped and expanded into the Super 10 tournament. With South Africa being readmitted into international sport following the dismantling of apartheid, there was an opportunity to launch an expanded competition which would also feature South Africa's top provincial teams. The inaugural competition featured the following teams: Waikato, Auckland, Otago and North Harbour (New Zealand); Natal, Transvaal and Northern Transvaal (South Africa); Queensland and New South Wales (Australia), Western Samoa (Pacific Nations representative). The Super 10 was won by Transvaal (South Africa) in 1993, and by Queensland (Australia) in 1994 and 1995.
SANZAR era (1995–present)
The official declaration of professionalism in rugby union in August 1995 led to a restructuring of the Super 10 competition. Following the success of the 1995 World Cup Australia, New Zealand and South Africa rugby boards formed SANZAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) to administer an annual 12-team provincial/franchise based competition pitting regional teams from the three nations against each other. In addition it was decided to hold an annual Tri-Nations Test Series between the three countries. A significant reason for the development of the Super 12 was the threat to rugby union from rival football code rugby league: part of the business model for the Foxtel pay TV network in Australia was to attract subscribers by offering an exclusive product (such as rugby union) which could not be seen on free-to-air broadcast television. By setting up the Super 12, the Unions had a product that was in demand from viewers, enabling them to sell a 10 year contract for exclusive television rights to News Corp for US$555 million, giving them both coverage and financial support to kickstart the new competition.
With significant sponsorship, and rugby turning a professional sport in 1995, the Super 12 competition successfully kicked off in 1996 with five New Zealand franchises, four South African provinces and three domestic Australian teams competing. New Zealand's dominance of the competition began in the first year when the Auckland Blues won the inaugural competition defeating South African side the Natal Sharks 45 – 21 in a home final. The Blues would repeat the success of 1996 beating Australian side the ACT Brumbies 23 – 7 in the 1997 final.
The Blues then reached their third successive final in 1998 but went down to fellow countrymen the Canterbury Crusaders 13 – 20. This would mark the beginning of the Crusaders' three-year dominance as they went on to win the 1999 and 2000 finals over the Otago Highlanders and ACT Brumbies respectively. The 2001 season was the first in which no New Zealand franchise reached the final, being contested between the ACT Brumbies and Natal Sharks with the Brumbies convincing winners, with a 36 – 6 scoreline.
The Crusaders won their 4th final in 2002 winning all 11 matches and missed out on their 5th in 2003 with a four-point loss to fellow countrymen the Blues. In 2004 the Brumbies took revenge on their 2000 final loss to the Crusaders defeating them 47 – 38 in front of a home crowd. The Crusaders would bounce back to win the 2005 final 35 – 25 against the Australian side the New South Wales Waratahs who reached their first ever final. This was the last year of the 12 team format.
From the early 2000s Australia had started to push for the inclusion of a fourth Australian team, and South Africa for another team from its country. There was also speculation of including a team from the South Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji; or a combined Pacific Islanders team from Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. Argentina was also pushing for inclusion in the Super 12. In the early 2000s the provincial names from the New Zealand franchises were dropped, so, for example, the Canterbury Crusaders became The Crusaders. Also South Africa followed the New Zealand franchise model, where previously South African participation was decided by the previous year's Currie Cup placings.
In September 2004, SANZAR began negotiations for a new television deal to take effect in 2006. That December, SANZAR announced that a new TV deal had been signed, with News Corporation winning the rights for the UK, Australia and New Zealand and Supersport winning rights for South Africa. The contract is worth USD 323 million over five years, which is a 16% annual increase compared to the previous deal. It covers international fixtures as well as the Super 14. SANZAR remained free to negotiate separate deals for other markets, such as France, Japan and the Americas.
The TriNations is the "cash cow" for the SANZAR partners as it provides nearly 60 per cent of the money from News Ltd. The Super 14 made up about 30 per cent of the deal.
Under the new deal, Australia and South Africa each got one extra team in the competition, and a third round of fixtures was added to the Tri Nations Series. The proposal also included the possibility of splitting the updated Super 14 into two seven-team divisions, but it was decided to keep the competition in its traditional single-table format. However, Argentina and the Pacific Islands remain shut out of the competition under this proposal.
It was confirmed in 2005 that the new Australian team in the competition would be based in Perth and was named the Western Force. The addition of the new South African team led to considerable controversy, including government involvement. Finally, the five teams for 2006 were confirmed to be the country's existing four teams, plus the Central Cheetahs, which draws its players from the Free State and Northern Cape Provinces.
The two new teams didn't perform all that well, the South African franchise the Cheetahs did the better of the two teams finishing 10th on the ladder notching up 5 season wins. The Australian franchise the Western Force only managed one victory and ended winning the wooden spoon as last placed 14th. The highlight for the Force was a 23-all draw against eventual champions the Crusaders, who defeated first-time finalists the Hurricanes 19 – 12.
For the 2007 season, 22 All Blacks missed the competition's first seven rounds as part of an All Black "conditioning programme". The conditioning programme was a part of the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup preparations, and every New Zealand franchise was without players for the first seven rounds. At the end of the regular season, for the first time since 1998, no Australian franchise had made the semi-finals. Although the Brumbies were strong and the Western Force experienced vast improvement it was a poor season for the Queensland Reds and Waratahs who finished last and second last respectively. Also, it was known before the final that the competition would be won for the first time ever by a South African team, as the Sharks and Bulls, who finished 1–2 on the season ladder, both won their respective semi-finals. The final, held in Durban, saw the visiting Bulls win 20–19.
Expansion to 15 teams
On 19 May 2009, SANZAR unveiled its model for an expanded season, to begin in 2011. This model was based around the original ARU proposal for three national conferences: each side would have played the other four teams from their own country twice and the other ten teams once each; the season would end with a six team finals series.
There were four major compromises, designed to accommodate certain wishes of each country, that somewhat complicated the model:
- Each team would only play four, instead of all five, teams in each of the other two national conferences, making sixteen regular season games for each team instead of eighteen, and allowing for a late February start, somewhat placating the ARU and NZRU who wanted a March start.
- There would be a three-week gap for the June test matches favoured by the SARU.
- The season would finish in early August so as not to overlap new streamlined versions of New Zealand's and South Africa's domestic competitions.
- The three conference winners and the three best performed of the remaining teams would qualify for a three-week finals series, with seedings deciding the match-ups. This system is a hybrid of the conference-based qualification system favoured by the SARU and the 'top six' model favoured by the ARU and NZRU.
On 11 November 2009, SANZAR announced the addition of a fifth Australian team. Melbourne would play in the expanded "Super Rugby" competition in 2011; the Australian start-up franchise was given the nod ahead of South Africa's Southern Kings. The licence was awarded to Victoria, Australia, and the team's name announced as the Melbourne Rebels. Brian Waldron, former CEO of the NRL club the Melbourne Storm, was confirmed as the new CEO of the Rebels on 11 January 2010, but resigned on 23 April after a salary cap breach was uncovered at the Storm.
Expansion to Argentina and Japan (2016)
In February 2012, SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters announced that the organisation was considering adding franchises in Argentina, Japan and the United States in 2016, the first year of SANZAR's next television contract. This will also be the year in which rugby sevens enters the Olympics, which was contributing to increased interest in the sport in many countries, including Japan and the US.
Australian sports broadcasting analyst Colin Smith noted that the addition of Japanese and American teams could result in a TV deal worth more than A$1 billion beyond 2020. Specifically, he stated, "You could have a deal comparable to the other major sports in Australia. Rugby is a college (university) sport in the US, if soccer can create its own league there and sell teams for $40 million, imagine what you could do in 10–12 years with rugby in that market." By comparison, the largest TV deal in Australian sport, that of the Australian Football League (Australian rules), is worth A$1.26 billion from 2012 to 2016. Even that figure is dwarfed by the TV contracts of the NFL. That league's current contracts are worth more than US$4 billion annually.
Peters added that the conference-based structure was ideal for expanding the competition to new territories, either by adding new conferences or by adding teams to the current conferences. He also discussed the possibility that offshore Super Rugby teams could be a home for surplus players from the SANZAR countries, keeping them in the SANZAR fold and away from European clubs.
Prior to Super Rugby's broadcast contracts expiring after the 2015 season, SANZAR considered several alternatives for the competition's future organisation: 
- Retention of the conference system that was in place for 2011–15.
- Expansion of the structure to include teams from Asia, the United States and/or Canada.
- A split of the competition, with South Africa forming one competition with the likely addition of at least one Argentine side, and Australia and New Zealand forming another, with the possibility of including Asian teams.
The last proposal, made by the SARU, was reportedly driven by internal union politics. With only five guaranteed places in Super Rugby but six active franchises, the bottom team in the South African Conference faced a promotion/relegation playoff with the sixth franchise for a place in the next season's competition. Australia and New Zealand initially favoured the 2011–15 structure, but subsequently warmed to the SARU proposal; a trans-Tasman competition would potentially allow for more regional derbies, fewer time zone complications and less player travel. However, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew indicated that a competition that did not include South African teams was a commercial non-starter because of large broadcast revenues from that country and added that NZRU staff considered Super Rugby matches in South Africa to be critical for national team development.
On 4 September 2013, SANZAR announced that starting in the 2016 season, SARU will be granted a sixth franchise, negating the need for relegation play-offs involving the sixth South African franchise. On 20 November 2014, it was announced that Japan and Argentina would be allocated teams from the 2016 season onwards.
|Argentina||Australia||Japan||New Zealand||South Africa|
For the 2007 season, the Southern Spears, based in Port Elizabeth, were originally intended to replace the lowest-finishing South African team from the 2006 competition. However, the existing South African Super 14 franchises opposed the plan, which they believed was pushed through by controversial former president of the South African Rugby Union, Brian van Rooyen. On 19 April 2006, after van Rooyen was ousted as president, SARU announced that the Spears would not enter the competition. SARU then called for an investigation into the viability of the Spears after discovering the franchise had serious financial irregularities.
In August 2006, a High Court of South Africa ruling stated that the Spears had a valid contract with SANZAR and SARU to compete in the Super 14 and Currie Cup. However, because of the organisation's financial and administrative troubles, in November 2006 a settlement was reached. The Spears abandoned their legal case, and will continue to exist, however they now will not compete in the Super 14. Although there is no official connection, the remnants of the Spears were effectively reconstituted into the Southern Kings, who unsuccessfully applied to enter the competition in 2011, losing out to the Melbourne Rebels. However, it was confirmed that they will play Super Rugby in 2013.
Wins by Country
Since 2011 Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have played in 3 separate conferences. With teams playing each team in their own conference twice (home and away) and in the other conferences playing four of the five teams. The winner of each conference is awarded a home final and their region specific conference trophy.
|Year||Australia||New Zealand||South Africa|
The five Australian teams playing in the competition are subjected to a salary cap. The Australian Rugby Union decided in 2011 to introduce the salary cap because of financial pressures. The 2012 salary cap of A$4.1 million was raised to $4.5 million for 2013 and 2014 to take pressure off the teams' ability to recruit and retain players. The salary cap is a key component of the negotiation between the ARU and the Rugby Union Players Association over the collective bargaining agreement. The fact that the Australian teams in Super Rugby face a salary cap has been attributed as a factor that makes it more difficult for Australian teams to win the title.
The cap regulations have some small concessions:
- Five players on each team may be paid $30,000 each per season by team sponsors; this amount is not included in the team cap.
- The maximum cap charge for a non-Australian player is $137,000, regardless of his actual wages.
New Zealand teams impose a cap on individual player salaries, but are not subjected to a team cap. South Africa imposes no cap of any sort.
The Super Rugby trophy is sterling silver and has the competition logo on a globe which sits atop of a four-sided twisted spiral; it stands at 49 centimetres high and weighs 2.7 kilograms. Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith in Nelson, New Zealand hand made the trophy which took over two months to make; the same workshop made the gold ring in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
On 7 February, a new Super Rugby Trophy was unveiled in Wellington, New Zealand for the Super 14 competition. In the first Super 14 final, played at Jade Stadium, in Christchurch, on 27 May 2006, the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 19–12.
There are several other trophies contested during the competition; the Charles Anderson VC Memorial Cup between the Brumbies and Stormers, the Bob Templeton Cup between the Reds and Waratahs, and the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy between the Blues and Highlanders.
Every year the Super Rugby player of the year is awarded.
The trophy, which will be in use from 2011 and beyond, was crafted from solid stainless steel and polished to a mirror finish. It has a height of 65 cm and a mass of 18 kilograms.
The trophy was designed by the company responsible for the 2000 Olympic Torch, Blue Sky Design of Sydney. The trophy was manufactured by Box and Dice Pty Ltd also based in Sydney.
SANZAR CEO, Greg Peters, said "The shape of the trophy is centred around three curved legs, each representing the Conferences involved in the Super Rugby competition."
According to Peters, "The champions trophy is the 'big one', and will become the ultimate symbol of Super Rugby supremacy in the years to come."
The colour on each leg corresponds to the Conferences with gold for Australia, black for New Zealand, and green for South Africa.
The Reds of Australia, the Stormers of South Africa and the Crusaders of New Zealand were the winners of their respective conferences and were each presented with a scaled-down copy of the trophy.
- Highest score: 96 points – Crusaders defeated Waratahs 96–19, 2002
- Lowest score: 0 points – Reds defeated Hurricanes 11–0, 1999; Brumbies defeated Bulls 15–0, 1999; Sharks defeated Bulls 29–0, 1999; Brumbies defeated Cats 64–0, 2000; Highlanders defeated Bulls 23–0, 2005; Blues defeated Brumbies 17–0, 2006; Brumbies defeated Reds 36–0, 2007; Crusaders defeated Western Force 53–0, 2008; Crusaders defeated Stormers 22–0, 2009; Highlanders defeated Crusaders 6–0, 2010; Stormers defeated Highlanders 33 – 0, 2011; Waratahs defeated Rebels 43–0, Crusaders defeated Bulls 27–0; Brumbies defeated Reds 29–0, 2015;
- Highest combined score: 137 points – Chiefs defeated Lions 72–65, 2010
- Lowest combined score: 6 points – Highlanders defeated Crusaders 6–0, 2009
- Highest winning margin: 89 points – Bulls defeated Reds 92–3, 2007
- Highest score away: 72 points – Chiefs defeated Lions 72–65, 2010; Waratahs defeated Southern Kings 72–10, 2013
- Most consecutive wins: 15 wins – Crusaders, 2002/03
- Most consecutive losses in a season: 13 losses – Lions, 2010
- Most consecutive losses: 17 losses – Lions, 15 May 2009 to 12 March 2011
- Most tries in a match by one team: 14 by Crusaders (v Waratahs), 2002
- Most tries in a match by both teams: 18 by Lions and Chiefs, 2010
- Most tries in a season: 71 tries – Crusaders, 2005
- Fewest tries in a season: 13 tries – Lions, 2007
- Most wins in a season: 14 wins – Stormers, 2012 regular season and Hurricanes, 2015 regular season
- Fewest wins in a season: 0 wins – Bulls, 2002, Lions, 2010 regular season
- Fewest losses in a season: 0 losses – Blues, 1997 and Crusaders, 2002
- Most wins in a row at home: 26 wins – Crusaders 2004–06
- Most points conceded in a season: 585 – Lions, 2010
- Largest points difference conceded in a season: 315 – Lions, 2010
- Points: 50 – Gavin Lawless, Sharks
- Tries: 4, Joe Roff (Brumbies), Gavin Lawless & Stefan Terblanche (Sharks), Joeli Vidiri, Doug Howlett & Mils Muliaina (Blues), Sean Maitland & Caleb Ralph (Crusaders), Sitiveni Sivivatu & Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Chiefs), Drew Mitchell (Waratahs)
- Conversions: 13 – Andrew Mehrtens, Crusaders
- Penalties: 9 Elton Jantjies, (Lions)
- Drop Goals: 4 – Morné Steyn, Bulls
- Points: 1,533 – Daniel Carter, Crusaders
- Tries: 59 Doug Howlett, Blues
- Conversions: 185 – Daniel Carter, Crusaders
- Penalties: 202 – Andrew Mehrtens, Crusaders
- Quickest Try: 8 Seconds – Bryan Habana, Stormers
- Consecutive Games: 104 – Caleb Ralph, Crusaders
- Most Caps: 175 – Keven Mealamu, Blues
- Points: 263 – Morné Steyn, Bulls, 2010
- Tries: 15 – Joe Roff, Brumbies, 1997; Rico Gear, Crusaders, 2005
- Conversions: 51 – Joe Roff, Brumbies, 2004
- Penalties: 51 – Morné Steyn, Bulls, 2010
- Drop Goals: 11 – Morné Steyn, Bulls, 2009
Each respective country competing in Super Rugby has a number of their own domestic leagues, which feed into Super Rugby teams.
South Africa actually used their Currie Cup teams as opposed to creating new teams during the earlier years of the Super 12. However, the Currie Cup is now the third tier of rugby in South Africa, below Test and Super Rugby; it is played after the Super Rugby season, and all unions are aligned to a Super Rugby team, though it is mainly the big six, Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Natal Sharks, Free State Cheetahs, Western Province and Eastern Province Kings which contribute the most to the Super Rugby sides.
In New Zealand, the ITM Cup is the most prominent domestic competition below the Super Rugby, in which all the respective Unions are also aligned with Super Rugby sides.
In Australia, the National Rugby Championship (NRC) was launched in 2014. The NRC has nine franchise teams as of 2015, with four in New South Wales, two in Queensland and one each in Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Several teams that played in the former Australian Rugby Championship, were revived for the NRC using the same or similar colour schemes and logos to the original 2007 teams in the same market.
Argentina, like South Africa and New Zealand, has a national championship where several provincial unions compete, the Campeonato Argentino.
Japan has a national club competition called Top League.
Super Rugby is broadcast on Supersport in South Africa, Sky Sport in New Zealand, and on FOX Sports in Australia. Super Rugby is simulcast terrestrially on M-Net in South Africa. Super Rugby is now broadcast in over 40 countries; in the UK on Sky Sports, in Spain it is broadcast by Digital+, and in the United States by DirecTV, which has confirmed all 125 matches will be broadcast on Channel 488, 489, and 490 and in HD on Channel 488–1, 489–1, and 490–1. In Australia Pay TV station Fox Sports show every match Live. From 2016 Australian Free-To-Air station Network Ten will start showing a full match replay every Sunday Morning of the Match of the Round featuring at least 1 Australian team, they will also show full match replays of Finals matches featuring Australian teams.
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